The national unemployment rate spiked to a high of 14.7% in April 2020, and veteran unemployment wasn't far behind. It jumped from 4.1% to 11.7% that same month, according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
Almost a year later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that things are looking up for America's veterans. The rates have dropped significantly as the economic fallout from the global COVID-19 pandemic begins to recede.
With veteran unemployment at 5.2% in February 2021, it might be helpful for the estimated 200,000 veterans leaving the military this year to learn where veterans are finding jobs.
Hill and Ponton, a law firm that specializes in veteran disability law, broke down 2020 numbers collected by Integrated Public Use Microdata Series -- Current Population Survey (IPUMS CPS) to tell us where veterans are finding work and what salaries they earned.
Public Administration: A Port in the Storm
The biggest change in veteran employment came in the public administration sector, which makes sense considering veterans' preference in hiring and the fact that the military provides ample experience for veterans looking for a public-service sector job.
It makes sense for 13.1% of veterans to find work in government, especially since the world's largest employer is the United States Defense Department and spending time in the military is essentially experience working for that employer.
The second-largest sector for veterans was the U.S. manufacturing sector, employing 12.2% of employed vets. It's important to note that, like many economic sectors, American manufacturing saw a decline in employment in 2020, and veterans were not spared.
Retail saw the second-largest increase of any sector of the U.S. economy for veteran hiring and was the third-largest employer of veterans.
Veteran Salary Expectations
While public administration and manufacturing were still keen on employing veterans, these areas have not seen salary increases at the same rates of employment. Since 2015, salary increases have stumbled, with public administration seeing only a 19.7% increase on average and manufacturing seeing a 15.4% increase.
A more than 19% raise may seem astonishing to most workers, but consumer prices have taken a substantial bite out of those gains. Prices have risen 12% since 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Despite a slowdown in the most popular areas of veteran employment, other sectors have seen big jumps in average salaries. Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction saw an almost 60% jump in salaries while pay in the finance and insurance sector jumped 47%.
The best news from the Hill and Ponton report was that all top 10 sectors employing veterans came with an average salary that was significantly higher than the U.S. average salary of $49,764. It's also important to note that a significant gender gap exists in the salary data collected, with men making an average of more than $27,000 per year than women in the top 10 sectors.
Veterans looking to get hired into the top sectors for veterans can find training and job placement opportunities through nonprofits, the Army's transition programs and other programs by using their GI Bill benefits. Whether looking in public administration, manufacturing or other sectors, Military.com is the place to start.
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